Claressa Shields Predicts Joshua Vs Ngannou To Go To Split Decision

February 22, 2024
3 months
Image of Claressa Shields

Women’s boxing star Claressa Shields has predicted that the upcoming heavyweight bout between Anthony Joshua and Francis Ngannou will be decided on a split decision.

Two-time unified heavyweight world champion Joshua and former UFC heavyweight champion Ngannou are set to meet in the ring on March 8 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. For Joshua, it will be his 31st professional bout and comes after a return to form in 2023, when he won all three bouts.

Ngannou, meanwhile, is contesting just his second pro boxing bout having made his debut in impressive fashion, narrowly losing a split decision to Tyson Fury in October last year, also in Riyadh, after dropping the WBC and lineal world champion in the third round.

Ngannou is already in Saudi Arabia to continue his training while also supporting the Professional Fighters League (PFL) in Saturday’s PFL vs Bellator MMA event. The Cameroonian joined the PFL after opting not to renew his contract with the UFC.

Shields, competing in her third MMA fight, is representing PFL and will fight Bellator’s Kelsey DeSantis in Riyadh on Saturday. In a show of support for her PFL colleague Ngannou, Shields is convinced his fight with Joshua is too close to call.

“I think it’s going to be a good fight. At first I kind of felt that AJ was going to knock out Ngannou, that’s how I saw the fight. Now it’s kind of shifted on, I feel like it’ll be a split decision going either guy’s way,” Shields told Sky Sports.

“I say that because it feels like AJ has a lot to prove and I feel like when he’s got a lot to prove sometimes he puts too much pressure on himself and he doesn’t fight his fight. And if he doesn’t fight his fight against Francis, Francis is a big, strong and powerful guy too so it can be a closer fight. I believe that AJ has everything in the tank to beat Francis. He just has to do it.”

The pre-fight odds do not expect the fight to be close. Joshua is the overwhelming favorite to defeat Ngannou by any method, but is also odds-on to stop the Cameroonian inside the distance. Shields admits that her prediction is based primarily on Ngannou’s excellent debut performance against Fury, and while the 37-year-old is first and foremost an MMA fighter, his powerful striking ability provides him with the tools to excel in a boxing ring.

MMA Making Shields ‘A Better Fighter’

“I say that because of how competitive he was against Tyson Fury,” she said. “Tyson Fury didn’t take the fight seriously. I think that us boxers have this mental thing where we feel like MMA fighters don’t have good boxing. But Francis is one of those fighters who does mostly stand up when he fights.

“So he has a pretty good boxing background, pretty good stand up. But us as boxers don’t really take that seriously coming from an MMA fighter. I feel like if Tyson had done his homework he would have seen, okay, this guy can definitely be a challenge.”

Shields, unbeaten as a boxer after 14 fights, has won one and lost one in MMA and the American is convinced her exposure to mixed martial arts is helping to improve her boxing skills.

“I feel like I’m great without it. I think it makes me greater and it makes me a better fighter overall. I feel like MMA has added some more knowledge of boxing for me. How they punch, the angles and stuff like that, I can still use that in boxing,” she said.

“I can still use some of the footwork to set up shots and I know I can hit them from a distance they can’t hit me from. It kind of gives me a higher IQ. It definitely adds but it’s just two different sports for sure.”

Shields Future Still In Boxing

Despite her recent foray into MMA, Shields insists her future remains in boxing. Her last boxing bout was in June last year – the only time she fought in 2023 – when she successfully defended her undisputed middleweight titles against Maricela Cornejo.

“I’m still getting better as a fighter because I never settle on my last performance. I make all my performances better and that’s why none of these girls can keep up. You’re not getting the Claressa you’ve seen fight against Savannah Marshall,” she said.

“When I come back to boxing, people think I looked good against Savannah Marshall and against Maricela Cornejo, oh just wait till I come back, I’m going to be better than that. I’ve gotten better after every fight. I have skill, I have power. I’m just the greatest of all time.”

The PFL vs Bellator event will be headlined by a heavyweight bout between respective champions Renan Ferreira and Ryan Bader. The co-main event features middleweight champions Impa Kasanganay (PFL) and Johnny Eblen (Bellator).